The vaccine-site microenvironment induced by injection of incomplete Freund's adjuvant, with or without melanoma peptides

J Immunother. 2012 Jan;35(1):78-88. doi: 10.1097/CJI.0b013e31823731a4.


Cancer vaccines have not been optimized. They depend on adjuvants to create an immunogenic microenvironment for antigen presentation. However, remarkably little is understood about cellular and molecular changes induced by these adjuvants in the vaccine microenvironment. We hypothesized that vaccination induces dendritic cell (DC) activation in the dermal vaccination microenvironment but that regulatory processes may also limit the effectiveness of repeated vaccination. We evaluated biopsies from immunization sites in 2 clinical trials of melanoma patients. In 1 study (Mel38), patients received 1 injection with an adjuvant mixture alone, composed of incomplete Freund's adjuvant (IFA) plus granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). In a second study, patients received multiple vaccinations with melanoma peptide antigens plus IFA. Single injections with adjuvant alone induced dermal inflammatory infiltrates consisting of B cells, T cells, mature DCs, and vessels resembling high endothelial venules (HEVs). These cellular aggregates usually lacked organization and were transient. In contrast, multiple repeated vaccinations with peptides in adjuvant induced more organized and persistent lymphoid aggregates containing separate B and T cell areas, mature DCs, HEV-like vessels, and lymphoid chemokines. Within these structures, there are proliferating CD4and CD8 T lymphocytes, as well as FoxP3CD4 lymphocytes, suggesting a complex interplay of lymphoid expansion and regulation within the dermal immunization microenvironment. Further study of the physiology of the vaccine site microenvironment promises to identify opportunities for enhancing cancer vaccine efficacy by modulating immune activation and regulation at the site of vaccination.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Movement
  • Cellular Microenvironment
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Freund's Adjuvant / administration & dosage*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Secondary
  • Immunomodulation
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Lipids / administration & dosage*
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Melanoma / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Peptide Fragments / administration & dosage
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / therapy
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Lipids
  • Peptide Fragments
  • incomplete Freund's adjuvant
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Freund's Adjuvant